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Rakuten, formerly Ebates, created a new program in 2019 whereby you can choose to earn American Express Membership Rewards in lieu of Cash Back. This was exclusively reserved for new Rakuten members up until 11/19. Since then, the program has evolved, and you’ll be able to change your account settings to Membership Rewards. The earn rate would be 1% cash back = 1 Membership Reward point. I’ve earned roughly 140k Amex Points since the program started a year ago!
Personally, Rakuten is now my go-to portal since I value Membership Rewards over 1% meaning that for every 1% you see in cashback I apply a 2x multiple. One way to think about this mentally is if you see 10% Cash Back listed you’ll be earning 10x Membership Rewards. Spend $100 get 1k MR which I value at $20.
Now is the very best time to join Rakuten – free $30
New Members will get $30 cash back, or 3k Amex points, after they spend $30 via the portal. It’s never been better. You can use our referral link here
Rakuten is a shopping portal and this is how shopping portals work:
When you login to your portal you’ll see something like this below…
When you click on any of those offers, you’ll be directed to the site you wish to buy from. If that were Finish Line, you’d arrive at the very same Finish Line that you’d see if you didn’t first go to Rakuten. The only thing the portal does is code your purchase as being routed via Rakuten, and as a result you earn the cashback advertised in the Rakuten portal.
This cashback, or Amex Points, is then paid to you every 3 months on the 15th.
Why should you select Amex Points instead of Cashback
The main reason I do it is because I love travel, and value Amex points at roughly 2 cents. This means instead of earning 8% cashback on every dollar I spend via the portal, I’d be earning 8x Amex Points. If I spend a $100 and earn 800 Amex Points, I’m earning points worth $16 or double the cashback rate.
Not everyone values points like I do, but I almost always redeem my points for a higher than 2 cent valuation. On the low side, I can redeem my points for flights in Amex Travel for 1.55 cents ( I have an Amex Biz Plat ) – so regardless, I feel comfortable I will extract value in excess of a penny.
I use Amex points to fly in Lufthansa First Class. This was an easy, and instantaneous, transfer of 70k Amex points to Aeroplan. Took all of 15 mins to execute and will ultimately be less than 50% of the points I earn from Rakuten this year.
Here’s a step by step guide to Earning Amex Points First go to My Account
Then account settings where you’ll find this:
If you don’t have a Rakuten account, you’ll need to select either PayPal or Big Fat Check
Then select Membership Rewards
And Voila…you’ll be earning Amex vs Cash Back
Once you start earning Membership Rewards, how quickly do they populate?
Long and short of it….you accumulate points over a 3 month period, and then 6 weeks after the close of that period, on the 15th of month, you’ll be credited. My period from January to March closed, and I was due to be credited May 15th, roughly 6 weeks later, and as you can see below….it hit same day. That is fantastic.
Rakuten compared to other shopping portals
This is a big consideration. I have almost exclusively used Rakuten because I factor in the underlying value of Amex Points into the equation. However…if you’re looking for cashback I’d recommend that you check out cashbackmonitor which gives you the best rates across all of the shopping portals.
Rakuten has captured my business and will continue to do so as long as it offers Amex points as an earn option. Rarely do I see another portal offering double the cashback which is about the only circumstance I’d consider another portal based on value.
Hope this helps and as always, please ask any questions you may have.
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